All breakups are difficult. Breaking up and going no contact with a narcissist, however, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with in my life.
It has led me to start asking the question, at exactly what point does a breakup with a narcissist occur?
Breakups with narcissists, no matter how you define them, don’t end well.
They end abruptly, usually with the two parties having completely different narratives for the same relationship. They result in multiple make-ups, a lot of damage, and no closure.
For the narcissist, however, once you enter into the relationship, it never ends.
They may discard you. They may stop talking to you for weeks, months or years. You may cease to be their primary source of narcissistic supply.
Yet in their eyes, you “belong” to them, and they will always feel entitled to reach out to you, a process called “hoovering.”
Despite how long it’s been, they may try to re-enter your life if only for a few minutes or perhaps for longer. In story after story of narcissists returning after years or decades, from both narcissists and survivors, this appears to hold true.
That’s not the way healthy relationships function, obviously, which leaves it to the partner to put a true end to the relationship.
So what then is and should be the actual point when the relationship ends?
Almost everyone in a relationship with a narcissist seesaws in and out of the relationship multiple times. This leaves partners in a sort of relationship limbo, floating in a halfway in and halfway out status.
So which time designates the actual breakup? Is it the first time the narcissist discards you? The first time you decide you’ve had enough and leave them? Somewhere in between? When?
A natural break-up point would seem to be the last time, or when we are able to put in place the concept of “going no contact.”
But let’s unpack that idea a bit more.
Preparing to Go No Contact with a Narcissist
The narcissist believes the relationship never ends, even if the partner has instituted no-contact. Narcissists do not respect boundaries and this is why they sometimes return, even after years.
Hence, no-contact itself is not always even the true end.
The problem with stating that no-contact is the end is that it relies on a promise that stretches into an unknown future. The partner often has to make that promise when emotionally weak and spiritually tired. Yet it requires adamance that whatever is instituted now will hold under conditions that cannot possibly be foreseen.
It requires a strength no human could possibly possess under the initial conditions during which they most need them.
How many times did you say you were going no-contact and it didn’t work?
Therefore, there must be a strong conviction behind no-contact. A true break-up occurs when the partner institutes no-contact and consciously intends it. The intention must carry an awareness of all of the implications of what it entatils for both the present and the future. It is a deliberate act that contains a solemn vow that one can and will never go back.
“Intending it” means any unpredictable and unknown action the narcissist takes now or later is irrelevant. The narcissist could drop by the partner’s workplace, make a fake social media account, send flowers anonymously, hire a private investigator, or dispatch a carrier pigeon, and it wouldn’t matter.
The partner wouldn’t respond. The partner wouldn’t even be rattled.
This requires psychological preparation and a discipline that most of us are not ready to take on for quite some time after learning who the narcissist really is.
I did not know it at the time, but the years it took me to finally break free, although painful, were not wasted. Despite the chemical addition and the psychological manipulation I endured, my brain was still mentally preparing me for extricating myself from the relationship. It is only now that I am out of the relationship that I can look back and see that.
I have identified eleven things that happened before I could implement no-contact and mean it. Those eleven things are a combination of thoughts I had, actions I took, and emotions that I felt.
All brought me closer to the end. These things occurred throughout five stages I believe we must go through in order to break up with the narcissist in our lives.
And what if you can’t go no contact? There’s a concept called “grey rock,” which is form of psychological no contact that will still require a mental preparation no different than what is described in this article.
I hope that by identifying all of these things, I can provide hope and illuminate a path forward for those who are struggling to go and break up with a narcissist for good.
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A version of this article also published on Thought Catalog
Maritza F Zapata
Such great post. I need them all. Thanks for your information.
Hi Maritza: I’m glad you found it so helpful. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. -Kristen
Kristin I can only continue to thank you.
I successfully went no contact in July and after much distress and lots of reading and watching on YouTube I am finally becoming myself again,whoever that is.
You see once you identify the abuse of narcissistic and partway thru my recovery.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is my mum is a narcissist fully blown no hiding it.
And because I have a fair few chronic Illnesses actually funnily enough the chronic fatigue thyroid and immune system problems that are common in people like me
I’m struggling as I cannot believe it’s true but it really really is so obvious
I always knew my mum wasn’t the same as my friends but I’m torn
I can’t walk away she’s 70
Oh dear god give me strength ????
I have never hated anyone, nor sought revenge in my life. Now, my anger and fury are so profound and overwhelming this sentence came out of my mouth. “If I knew I’d only get 5 to 7, I would kill him. It would be worth it.” My anger and outrage are not subsiding, but growing stronger. Constant thoughts of how he has changed me, his mindfuckery, lies, betrayals, projecting his sickshit onto me, no accountability, consume my time. I want to not care, I want him to mean zero to me. I want out of this hellish World/Reality I entered into upon meeting him. The relationship has been over for months. Circumstances prevent going no contact. And so does my sick brain. Sorry for the Debbie Downer post. I just needed to get it out.
Thanks for another outstanding article, Kristen.
I’m so glad you did. Getting it out helps.
There’s nothing wrong with emotions.
It’s what we do with them that matters and staying far away from him is the best gift you can give yourself. But you already know this. Have you ever written unsent letters to him? That has helped me considerably. If you try it, please don’t send them. But after I was finished, a lot of the rage would subside. I think anger is very healthy in these situations. It tells us we are healing because we are aware of the injustice of what we went through. Thank you again for reading, Cynthia. Please take care of yourself.
Thanks for responding Kristen. I have written a lot that I haven’t sent to him. I have almost 100 audio recordings of myself describing what I’ve been through. I have a pattern of texting him when the outrage hits me the hardest in the evenings. They range from still trying to reason with him, to blasting him for all he’s done. I can’t seem to stop. Just last night it felt like I reached an end point with the texting. I hope so. It’s futile and it’s hurting me even more. I want out of this cycle of pain. Sometimes I’m just spinning in a cortex of my need for justice and retribution. Cynthia
There is definitely no closure. I experienced this first hand. Not even a goodbye. He just disappeared from my life.
I’m so sorry to hear this. I hope that you have been able to start finding some closure on your own. It takes a long time but it can happen with time.
I’m still in the process, it’s been hard to be honest. There are so many unanswered questions and it feels like I can’t let go without knowing the answers.
I very much know that feeling. I think it’s part of the healing process. What happened to me was that I eventually realized that even when I had been in a position to ask him questions, I never trusted his answers. So even if I could get all my questions answered by him, I still wouldn’t have my closure from him because he’s not capable of providing answers that make any sense. I needed to answer the questions myself on my own terms, whatever that meant to me, and provide my own closure. It was very empowering to realize I didn’t need him for that because he’d never been a reliable or trustworthy person in the first place. I don’t know if that helps. It’s just one person’s experience, but that’s what happened to me.
Thanks! Yes, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I know it’s better to just move on even without the answers, but sometimes I just miss him so much. I feel so tired of the emotional turmoil.
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Thank you, Kristen. I am extremely interested in what you have to say.